Wellington Botanic Gardens

The Wellington Botanic Garden was established in 1868, and we made our way through the gardens from the Cable Car outlook at the top of the hill.


We made our way past the Carter Observatory (which was closed), past the sundial and started our climb back to sea level, when we heard an unfamiliar noise that sounded a bit like a sick seagull … which turned out to be Kaka!  We hadn’t seen or heard Kaka before, so this was quite something!



Continuing on our walk, we heard and saw various birds, including a few fantails or piwakawaka.  I tried to get a photo of one of these but they’re such difficult birds to photograph, as they never seem to sit still for very long. They’re always flitting about from branch to branch, up and down, and back again.  The only clear shot I managed to get was unfortunately of the back end of the fantail.


We stopped at the cafe in the Lady Norwood Rose Garden for a much needed coffee before meandering along various tracks through the garden.  Opened in 1953, the Lady Norwood Rose Garden is named after Lady Norwood who was the wife of Sir Charles Norwood (former mayor of Wellington).  The rose garden contains more than 300 varieties of roses, but unfortunately, our timing was very good and the roses weren’t in bloom. Apparently they’re a spectacular sight from November to May.

Lady Norwood Rose Garden

Next to the rose garden is the Peace Garden with the Peace Flame.  The flame in the Peace Lantern is from the fires of the Hiroshima bombing, given to New Zealand by Japan in recognition of New Zealand’s work against nuclear weapons. This next bit of information is from Friends of the Wellington Botanic Garden:

“This lantern has had pride of place in the Wellington Botanic Gardens since 1975, when it was gifted to Wellington by the Japan Society of New Zealand. In 1994, it was adapted to house the Peace Flame. The Peace Flame was brought to Wellington in recognition of the capital’s commitment to a nuclear-free world.

In 1982, councillor Helene Ritchie drove a “nuclear-weapon-free zone” motion for the city council, narrowly winning with 10 to nine votes. Wellington led the way for the nation and, in 1984, New Zealand was declared nuclear-free under Prime Minister David Lange.

The flame, presented by Hiroshima City, was lit from the fires the atomic bomb created there. Fires from both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were preserved after the atomic bombs were deployed in 1945, and were united at a shrine in Tokyo in an act of remembrance.

The Wellington Botanic Gardens relocated the lantern to the Peace Garden next to the Lady Norwood Rose Garden, and it has now been home to the enduring flame for almost 20 years. The accompanying plaque “calls attention to the indiscriminate and uncontainable nature of nuclear weapons which kill beyond borders and generations”.

An excerpt from celebrated poet Hone Tuwhare’s No Ordinary Sun also marks the site of the lantern and Peace Flame. The poem acknowledges the devastation caused by the nuclear bombings, and was widely regarded from the 1960s onwards as a call to arms in New Zealand’s own fight to become nuclear-free.”

Waterfall and Peace Lamp

Waterfall and Peace Lamp

The Peace Flame

At the entrance to the Peace Garden is the Hiroshima Stone, a piece of the original Hiroshima Town Hall that was destroyed during the bombing.

Hiroshima Stone

After seeing these, we walked through the rose garden and around to the main entrance, so that we could see the Soundshell, explore the Fragrant Garden and visit the Duck Pond  before making our way back down to the hill to the city’s waterfront.

Sound Shell




The Duck Pond

Duck Pond




Wellington Cable Car

On our last full day in Wellington, we chose to take a one-way trip on the historic cable car, from Lambton Quay to the Botanic Gardens at the top of the hill, and then walk back down the tracks through the gardens to get back to the city’s waterfront.

Cable Car map

I had picked up a few brochures from Quest’s reception area and this is what the brochure has to say about the cable car:

“There is simply no better way to experience the hidden charm that Wellington offers than to take this short historic journey from the heart of Lambton Quay, up through the hillside terraced houses of Kilburn and our tunnel of lights to the lookout perched high above the city. The Cable Car Museum and top entrance to the Botanic Garden are adjacent to the lookout.

The Cable Car has a single track with a passing loop half way. The cars are fitted with flanged wheels on one side and flat wheels on the other, which means they can steer around the loop using the flanged wheels whilst the flat wheels slide across the central rail. The system has numerous safety features including two gripper brakes on each car, as well as passenger load sensing, overload prevention and earthquake protection.

Martin Kennedy (a successful Wellington businessman) is credited with the original idea. He persuaded the Upland Estate Company to include it in their plans for the new suburb of Kelburn. The Cable Car was designed by James Fulton, who also surveyed and set out the Kilburn suburb. Construction started in 1899 and it was opened on 22 February 1902, carrying over 4,000 people on its first weekend of operation. By 1904 trailers had been added to the cars to increase seating capacity and a Tea House had been built at the summit. In 1933 electricity replaced steam as the power for the cable car. In 1978 the original system made its last run and was replaced by a new Swiss designed system which remains in operation today.”

Cable Car


When I first heard about the cable car, I’ll admit that I thought it was one of the traditional cars suspended from a cable (like the one in Cape Town), so I was quite surprised to see something similar to a tram. The trip up the cable car was pretty smooth, with the two cars passing each other half way, and the cable car stopping about three quarters of the way up, at a station, to let some passengers off before continuing to the top. It climbs an amazing 120 metres in only 5 minutes!

The cable car is fully accessible to wheelchairs, mobility scooters and pushchairs. Bicycles are allowed at the discretion of the company. The cable car operates every day of the week and on public holidays (except Christmas Day), with different operating times for weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays. If you’re planning to go on it, check the website for current fares and timetables.

Te Papa Museum

As it was raining and miserable on my first day in Wellington, it made sense to head for some indoor sightseeing.

Te Papa Map

I’d forgotten that it was school holidays, and when I eventually walked out of the rain and into Te Papa, I wasn’t prepared for the large crowd and I had thought that it was going to be a rather quiet museum trip, being a Thursday, but I think everyone had had the same idea and headed to the museum for the day!

Te Papa building

I’d gone to Te Papa specifically to see the Gallipoli exhibit, which has been on since April 2015 and will be available until April 2019.  There is free entry to the Gallipoli exhibit, and it marks the World War I centenary.


When I arrived at the exhibit, I was surprised to see a queue waiting to go in and a museum staff member controlling the number of people entering at a time.  I patiently waited in the queue and fully understood why they were doing this, once I got in.  Te Papa teamed up with Weta Workshop in creating this exhibit, which tells the story of the eight-month Gallipoli campaign through the eyes (and words) of eight New Zealanders.  These people have been turned into extraordinary larger-than-life figurines that are 2.4 times human size and have been crafted with minute detail, right down the to the pores in the skin, hairs on the arms, legs and faces, dirt, wounds and even blood, sweat and tears!

Te Papa larger than life

Make-up artist putting on finishing touches

Each figurine is a moment captured in time, and the audio story that accompanies each one is really moving and mades the hairs on neck stand on end.  There was one story in particular that really moved me and has stayed with me, and that was the story of Sister Lottie le Gallais.  Her brother was stationed in Gallipoli and she was on board the ship Maheno, heading for Gallipoli, and was awaiting news about her brother.

Te Papa Nurse

I don’t know why her story touched me more than the others.  I don’t know if it was because she was female, or if it was because she was a nurse and I’d recently received news from home that my grandmother had passed away.  She was a nurse, too.  But, for some reason, Lottie’s story moved me more than the stories of any of the others.

All of the Gallipoli stories are sad, they all have tragic endings, lives were lost, and families lost loved ones.  It was tragic and it was horrific, but Te Papa and Weta Workshop have really put on extraordinary exhibit.  Words and photos really don’t do the exhibit any justice.  I walked out of there with goosebumps and I felt completely different to how I’d felt before I’d gone into the exhibit earlier in the day.

The photos shown above are not my own.  I did not take any photos while in the exhibit, purely because flash photography is prohibited, as it will damage the displays (cause the paint to fade, etc.) and I didn’t want to try take photos in the dark.  The pictures shown above are from Te Papa’s website.

We did go back to Te Papa on Saturday, to explore the exhibits on the other levels, that included a full sized specimen of a colossal squid in “Mountains to Sea”, natural disaster in “Awesome Forces”, “Blood, Earth & Fire”, and “Rugby Legends: The Spirit of the Black Jersey”.  Some of these exhibits are temporary, while others are long-term.  To see what’s on display at Te Papa, visit their website for more info.




Winter is not the best time of year to visit windy Wellington, and I happened to have my first trip to Wellington booked for mid-July, which I knew was going to be cold.  What wasn’t anticipated was the frontal system that arrived the day that we flew.  This brought with it gale-force winds, cold temperatures and lots of rain.

We anxiously waited at the airport for our flight to board, while constantly seeing every second flight to Wellington being cancelled, and each alternate one being delayed.  It was not a good sign and we weren’t sure if we were actually going to get there, due to the bad weather.

Our 7pm flight finally boarded after being delayed twice, and off we went.  The hour-long flight from Auckland wasn’t nearly as turbulent as I’d expected and the landing went pretty smoothly, considering the howling wind outside.  Being nighttime, we couldn’t see anything out of the windows during the flight or landing, which was probably just as well.  The worst part of getting to Wellington was sitting in the plane, on the tarmac, waiting for the doors to be opened, with the plane being buffeted from side-to-side in the wind.  It felt like we were sitting in a boat and not on an aeroplane!

Nothing prepared me for the strong, chill-you-to-the-bone, icy wind that greeted us when we climbed out the car at the apartment we were staying in.  It was 10.45pm and bitterly cold, but we were just glad that we’d arrived safely.

Wellington weather

The following morning, hubby went off to his work conference and I was left to explore some of the city on my own.  It was 9am, six degrees and raining, so I dressed in four layers of clothing, as well as a beanie, gloves, scarf and rain jacket and off I went.  What I hadn’t thought about was how I was going to keep my backpack dry.  It didn’t fit under my rain jacket and by the end of the day, all my belongings were damp.


Wellington Waterfront


Wellington Waterfront

We were staying in the Quest Atrium on The Terrace, self-catering apartments just a short walk to the CBD, if you use the pedestrian access through the James Cook Hotel and the elevator at the back of the foyer that takes you down onto Lambton Quay.


Lambton Quay is in the heart of Wellington CBD and I walked this street on a daily basis. It’s one of the older streets in Wellington and has been around since the early 1800’s.  Obviously, it looked very different back then.  Tucked away between shops along Lambton Quay is a little side lane called Plimmers Steps, and a bronze sculpture of John Plimmer and his little dog, Fritz, can be found here.  John Plimmer (1812 – 1905) was a builder, businessman and civic leader, and has been called the Father of Wellington.  To read more about the history of John Plimmer, click on this link.

Statue in Lambton Quay

John Plimmer & Fritz, Plimmers Steps

On my way back to Quest Atrium, I got caught in a downpour and popped into the nearest coffee shop to escape the rain.  It’s not easy keeping warm and dry when you’re exploring on foot!  There are many coffee shops and cafes in and around the city, this one happened to be on the top level of Whitcoulls.  While riding up the escalator, something caught my eye and I went to have a look on my way out.  It was a ginger cat-shaped door stop that looked exactly like my kitty back home.


I met up with hubby and a few of his work colleagues that evening, at a restaurant called Tequila Joes for the Thursday taco special.  All-you-can-eat tacos with Baja Fries and a drink for $25.  The tacos were freshly made and really delicious.  Each taco that was brought out was a different flavour, for example, the first tacos that were brought to the table were beef, followed by pork, then fish, then chicken, etc.  You get to eat as many as you like and then just notify the waitress when you’ve had your fill, so that the chef knows to reduce the number that he makes for the next round.

There’s so much to see and do in and around Wellington.  During my four day stay, I walked through the city, sightseeing and doing a little shopping, as well as visiting Te Papa and Wellington museums, the waterfront, going up the cable car to the Botanic Gardens, before walking back down to the waterfront.  There’s a lot that I didn’t get to see, as it was further out of town (not within walking distance) or had an entrance fee attached.